Welcome to the June 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting:
Parenting in Theory vs. in Reality
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants are sharing how their ideas and methods of parenting have changed.
The surprises in my shortcomings as a parent were not immediately apparent. It’s been more of a discovery since my son emerged from a docile toddlerhood into more challenging Threes, he got a sister at four, and my health went downhill. I had read and learned so much from parenting classes when he was young, and I’d gotten so much more knowledgeable about healthy eating, it was as though I could taste the promised land.
But then it all got harder. Ignorance can be bliss, and my overly-informed self was wallowing. I knew what I was missing. I knew what they were missing.
Today, he is seven, and my daughter is closing in on three. I realize I had no idea what it was to raise a toddler the first time. She brings me more challenges and exasperations on a daily basis than her brother did in weeks’ time.
Before she was born, I had some concerns about my ability to slow down and be present. But I had no idea to what extent that would become a physical necessity.
I mistakenly thought that after a relatively quick and easy homebirth, I would bounce back faster than from the c-section I had with my son. Indeed, my milk came rushing in, but my energy also went rushing out. I stayed busy with volunteering at my son’s Waldorf school and with Holistic Moms instead of sleeping all the time like I did after my son’s birth. I needed to sleep. I wanted to be active, but my body — four years older and grappling with what I didn’t quite realize was IBS — could not rebound.
It’s now nearly three years later, and I feel like I’ve been swimming through jello most of the time. I’ve undertaken a number of healing modalities and have had improvement from a lot of them, but inevitably I try to do too much and regress. I recently got confirmation from a saliva test that I’m close to adrenal fatigue. New supplements are helping some, but I continue to wonder just what I am up for.
If I don’t write and participate in my community, I don’t feel whole. And yet, I really need to sleep a lot and to meditate if I’m going to heal. I keep imagining that someday I will hit on the right combination of remedies and magically turn into the mother I want to be. For now, I am making a lot of compromises between what I thought I would be doing at this stage and what I am doing.
Schooling is one of the areas I’m feeling conflicted about right now. I used to teach public school and think there is a lot of good that can come from an activist/whole foodist/environmentalist parent being connect with public schools, but there are also a lot of things I don’t love about it, including tests, screen time, indoor time in inclement weather, and “treats.” I hope to have more energy to work on those issues in the future.
I thought I would keep my son in Waldorf school until 3rd grade and that my daughter would go there, too, maybe starting late since she has a summer birthday. If she turned out to be more introverted, I thought I might keep her home longer or even try homeschooling if it seemed to suit her temperament. I loved the natural environment, the attention to spirit — heart and head — and the fact that the teachers were so grounded and calm. I learned a lot about rhythm and hoped that I would have integrated more Waldorf songs and stories into our home life when I had the chance to start over with my daughter. But then my son started acting out in the family-like environment, and the price tag didn’t seem to compel us to stay if it meant we might miss out on a spot at the Expeditionary Learning public school where he now goes (and which now has a long waiting list)
So we have saved five figures a year twice over (and saved time in additional hours that he’s at school and that he takes the bus home). It is a choice school that does not use grades, an EL school that values community and nature with an intentional focus on meeting the child’s needs. But still, it’s a school where he is tested on screens and spends his days under florescent lights.
This year, my daughter has spent three full days a week at an in-home Montessori daycare/preschool and only six weeks at a Waldorf parent-child class and a handful of times at a homeschooling co-op. Although I think the Montessori approach suits her well, and the home is beautiful,I love seeing her do imaginative play.
We were surprised to get a coveted spot in the Montessori pre-K at my son’s school, a spot that would not come up again. So, instead of going to a Waldorf school and staying home with me the other days, my barely three-year-old daughter will likely spend five days a week, 8:00-2:41, in a public school.
The teacher is lovely, and the setting is familiar and comfortable to her. I will have consistency in my schedule and be able to pursue work during the day (instead of nighttime tutoring, which is too hard on my body and on the kids) and to take care of my health and, I hope, our home. She will have a consistent schedule, which I have trouble providing when left to my own devices, and she’ll be at a place she is already asking to go. The biggest benefit is that the kids will be in the same place, coming home on the bus or with me without having to truck from one spot to another to get the other sibling.
But still, it’s public school at age 3, and not by financial necessity. It’s because I can’t hack it as a full-time mom.
There are times when I relish the days off of school, when we don’t need to be anywhere at any set time or when we can do an outing that’s impossible when children are gone 8:00-2:40 and come home needing a big snack and rest. These days, I totally get unschooling. However, as much as I enjoy those times with my kids, it feels like an incredible amount of work for me.
And the inconsistency is hard. My Ayurvedic constitution is vata-pitta. Currently, it seems my vata or air energy is way
overblown, and one of the best remedies for that is consistency of daily routines. I also need to eat in quiet or I simply don’t digest. This does not work well even with kids at home but especially not when you’re on the road. When we go on trips, I tend to eat a huge meal at home so that I can skip another one later rather than try to munch while one is stuck on the slide and the other wants me to watch him climb something. I just can’t be in my body and be with my kids at the same time. So I have to have time without them or I literally get ill.
That is not something I expected to say. And even though my son was intense, I had no idea to what extent his sister’s temperament would stress me out. I just can’t be a good mom to her if I have to do it all the time.
No, I am not in pain or fighting cancer, and yes, I am trying to work on my stress response. But it was over 30 years in the making (including some years doing some really harmful things), and it’s going to take a while to reverse.
I realize my children are only young once, but I am not getting younger, either. I feel like now is the time to be present with their newly unfolding selves but like it is also time for me to ensure that will be around and mobile when they have children. It almost seems like I wasn’t ready to really heal at the level I’d needed to for so long until I got so ill I could hardly take joy in my children’s smiles or walk up the hill from the bus stop without getting exhausted.
They sometimes eat without Mommy and sometimes rice crackers and a lot of dried fruit while I tend to my chicken stock and try to muddle through the brain fog and figure out what is the next thing to prioritize to get well. I long for the day when we culture our own homemade coconut yogurt, they eat nothing from a package and more things that are green than white. And that’s just the start of it.
I try to remember that at least they are very far ahead of where I was at my son’s age, when I’d eaten tons of McDonald’s, gluten, artificially-colored candy, and soda pop and they have had none. Compared to a lot of other kids, their diet is quite clean, but I know they would do better with fewer carbs, and I admire people who stick with GAPS diet or even a Paleo diet with their kids when there is no smoking gun of necessity (like eczema or asthma).
My hope is that my feel vibrant and alive at 40 and that they have a sense of groundedness I’m just beginning to cultivate. If they can’t see me model having that, maybe they can at least see me working toward it.
For now, it’s the best I can do.
Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (posts will be live and updated no later than afternoon on June 11):
- My little gastronomes — “I’ll never cook a separate meal for my children,” Maud at Awfully Chipper vowed before she had children; but things didn’t turn out quite as she’d imagined.
- Know Better, Do Better. Except When I Don’t. — Jennifer from True Confessions of a Real Mommy was able to settle in her parenting choices before her children arrived, but that doesn’t mean she always lives up to them.
- Judgments Made Before Motherhood — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks back on her views of parents she came in contact with before she became a mother and how much her worldview of parenting has changed!
- A Bend in The Road — Lyndsay at ourfeministplayschool writes about how her visions of homeschooling her son during the elementary school years have changed drastically in the last year – because HE wants to go to school.
- I Wish Children Came with Instruction Manuals — While Dionna at Code Name: Mama loves reading about parenting, she’s not found any one book that counts as an instruction manual. Every child is different, every family is different, every dynamic is different. No single parenting method or style is the be-all end-all. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if parenting were like troubleshooting?
- The Mistakes I’ve Made — Kate at Here Now Brown Cow laments the choices she made with her first child and explains how ditching her preconceived ideas on parenting is helping her to grow a happy family.
- I Only Expected to Love… — Kellie at Our Mindful Life went into parenting expecting to not have all the answers. It turns out, she was right!
- They See Me Wearin’, They Hatin’ — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different contemplates putting her babywearing aspirations into practice, and discussed how she deals with “babywearing haters.”
- Parenting Human Beings — Erika Gebhardt lists her parenting “mistakes,” and the one concept that has revolutionized her parenting.
- Doing it right: what I knew before I had kids… — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud, guest posting at Natural Parents Network realises that the number one game in town, when it comes to parenting, is judgement about doing it right. But “doing it right” looks different to everybody.
- A synopsis of our reality as first time parents — Amanda at My Life in a Nut Shell summarizes the struggles she went through to get pregnant, and how her daughter’s high needs paved the way for her and her husband to become natural parents.
- Theory to Reality? — Jorje compares her original pre-kid ideas (some from her own childhood) to her personal parenting realities on MommaJorje.com.
- The Princess Paradigm — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen had planned to raise her daughter in a sparkly, princess-free home, but in turn has found herself embracing the glitz.
- Healthy Eating With Kids: Ideal vs. Real — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs had definite ideas about what healthy eating was going to look like in her family before she had kids. Little did she realize that her kids would have something to say about it.
- How to deal with unwanted parenting advice — Tat at Mum in Search thought that dealing with unwanted parenting advice would be a breeze. It turned out to be one of her biggest challenges as a new mum.
- How I trained my 43 month old in 89 days! — Becky at Old New Legacy used to mock sticker charts, until they became her best friend in the process of potty training.
- My Double Life: Scheduling with Twins — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot was banging her head against the wall trying to keep up with the plan she made during pregnancy, until she let her babies lead the way.
- Parenting in the land of compromise — As a holistic health geek trying to take care of her health issues naturally, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama regrets that her needs sometimes get in the way of her children’s needs.
- Practice Makes Good, Not Perfect — Rachael at The Variegated Life comes to see that through practice, she just might already be the parent she wants to be.
- 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering: How to Free Yourself and Your Family — Sheila Pai at A Living Family shares in theory (blog) and reality (video) how she frees herself from 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering that can damage the connection, peace and love she seeks to nurture in her relationships with family and others.
- 5 Things I Thought MY Children Would Never Do — Luschka at Diary of a First Child largely laughs at herself and her previous misconceptions about things her children would or wouldn’t do, or be allowed to do.
- Policing politeness — Lauren at Hobo Mama rethinks a conviction she had about modeling vs. teaching her children about courtesy.
- The Before and The After: Learning about Parenting — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work reminisces about the perspective she held as a young adult working with children (and parents) . . . before she became a mother.
- Parenting Beliefs: Becoming the Parent You Want to Be — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how we can make a mindful decision to become the parent we want to be. Decisions we make affect who we will become.
- The Great Breastfeeding Debacle — In Lisa at The Squishable Baby’s mind, breastfeeding would be easy.
- What my daughter taught me about being a parent — Mrs Green asks, “Is it ever ok to lock your child in their bedroom?”
- Sensory Box Fail! — Megan at The Boho Mama discovers that thoughtful sensory activities can sometimes lead to pasta in your bra and beans up your nose.
- Montessori and My Children – Theory vs. Reality — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares her experiences with Montessori parenting and describes the results she sees in her now-adult children.
- I Like The Mother I Am Now More Than The Mother I Intended To Be — Darcel at The Mahogany Way thought she would just give her kids the look and they would immediately fall in line.
Lauren @ Hobo Mama says
This post makes me want to give you a hug! I hear in you so much of the similar guilt-laced questioning I’ve had about the decision I made to send Mikko to preschool for two years. There doesn’t always have to be the perfect reason to choose school/public school over homeschool or alternative schooling; there doesn’t have to be one answer that satisfies all the critics (in your head). If this is what’s working for you, your family, your health, your kids — you have no one else to answer to. It sounds like they’re happy, and you can concentrate on the healing you need.
mrs green @littlegreenblog says
I can totally relate. I feel I birthed my life essence out when I had my daughter! And yes, that pull between doing things to feel complete and the lure of bed and solitude is a difficult one to fathom isn’t it?
I hope you find the road to wellness and inner peace soon and wish you well on your journey. Thank you for such open, honest sharing x
Thank you so much for sharing! That means a lot! I wish the same for you!
That’s so kind of you to say, Lauren. Thank you so much for this. It really helps.
Sheila Pai @ ALivingFamily says
And your best is enough, mama. Truly. The messages to put ourselves after our children are so strong, especially in the peaceful parenting world. In fact, our children are a blessed lesson in the truth that caring for ourselves IS caring for others. A hard lesson to accept sometimes. Thank you for sharing your journey. ~sheila
Thank you, Sheila! I really appreciate your kind words. It really helps to hear these reminders!
Best of luck to you! It’s no fun to not accomplish all that you think you should, but I think you have a healthy concept of your limitations. It’s hard to find boundaries and not do too much, but it’s nice once you find a balance.
Dionna @ Code Name: Mama says
I hate to see you write that you can’t “hack it” as a full time mom – the fact that it might not be working for you right now does not make you less than. You are meeting the needs of every family member, and it sounds like everyone is happy, and it is working! Good for you for modeling self-care for your kiddos!! Healing thoughts your way, mama.
It’s clear that the decision was not taken lightly; you had to make the best one for your kids AND for yourself. Congratulations on doing that! Mine are still little but I can already understand the guilt factor…but you should feel confident in knowing that you are doing what you can to make it work, and like you said, be there for them in the long-run. Thanks for sharing!
Mercedes, thank you so much for your kind words. I wasn’t fishing for people to tell me I don’t suck, but I admit it is nice to hear understanding voices! Thank you!
Thanks very nice of you, Dionna. At least I am trying to meet the needs of everyone. Sometimes it feels like I’m not succeeding and then I second-guess everything! I really appreciate your understanding and your healing thoughts!
Oh, all the decisions about schooling — and they will never be perfect, and they will never end. I really hear you on the difficulties of those compromises, as we’re in the midst of making similar decisions that I’m not 100% happy about. But, I keep reminding myself, better public school and much less stressed-out parents than parents working too hard to earn tuition for the fancy Montessori school. Our relationships are what matter most! Sounds like you are identifying and cultivating what matters most, too. Blessings to you as you make your way!
I’m delighted to have discovered your post. I am a full-time Mom to my 3yr old son (just 1 child!) and so exhausted! Recently I tried to settle him to going to a Montessori environment in a home for just one half-day a week so I could get some time ..after 5 days he was very distressed and I had to give up. Since then he had bad dreams, and not as keen to leave home…as well as that I have been taking him to one Waldorf parent-toddler group and 1 conventional, straight mother-toddler group. I am desperate just to meet Moms and have a chat and find someone I can really relate to. but that hasn’t happened yet. Anyhow, I am sitting here after a fight with my husband where I complained he doesn’t cook, am exhausted, hungry and emotional and I want to write. I don’t know whether having another child would kill me off altogether, kill my dreams yet a second baby is my dream too. I long for both writing and a baby. I need to cook and eat well but it’s hard! I’m 41 and like you, know what it is to be ungrounded and to need to take deep steps to care for myself, experience deep healing….I think you’re brave and that you are right too..your kids are way ahead already and you are doing your best and doing the right thing includes you in the equation…..it’s not a compromise, it’s the only way xx